For co-existence, (bio)diversity and justice in conservation

Human-Jaguar Relations in the Atlantic Forest: an opportunity for conviviality!

By the Brazilian CONVIVA team.

Interdisciplinarity as a goal and starting point. The Brazilian team implementing the CONVIVA – convivial conservation project is a highly diverse group of enthusiastic researchers from different institutions and disciplines, working in collaboration towards jaguar conservation in the Atlantic rainforest through a convivial perspective. Coordinated by Dr. Katia Ferraz, the leader of the Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Lab (LEMaC) at the University of São Paulo, the team is composed of ecologists, conservation biologists and social scientists. One of our main goals is to build bridges across scales of analysis, from individual-centred approaches such as the ‘Human dimensions of conservation’, to political ecology which looks at broader societal-environmental relations with a justice focus. By interweaving analysis at different scales and with different disciplinary foci, we aim to work towards a new theoretical basis to improve current conservation practices and policies.

We are not starting from scratch! Our activities build on two ongoing projects in the context of LEMaC: the project “Onças do Iguaçu” on mammal conservation in Foz do Iguaçu National Park in the state of Paraná, and “Mammals in the Mata Atlântica” in Serra do Mar Green corridor in the state of São Paulo. Our focus regions are two of the only three areas in which there is a higher probability of jaguar populations persisting in the longer term (highlighted in red in the map below), based on the most recent analysis of species viability in the Atlantic Forest. In working towards making this probability a reality, the Brazilian team of researchers from LEMaC have partnered with Instituto Manacá and the National Center for Research and Conservation of Large Carnivores (CENAP), a branch of the Brazilian national institute for biodiversity conservation, the Chico Mendes Institute (ICMBio). Therefore, we seek to engage with and deepen the work that is already ongoing through CONVIVA in a way that allows the different projects to build on and feed off each other.

Connections beyond academia. The Brazilian branch of the CONVIVA project is bringing together environmental policy, NGO advocacy and research to develop sustainable paths for a just and healthy environment for future generations of both humans and jaguars. Our meetings bring together practitioners, scientists from different fields, and public policy managers, turning our meetings into spaces both for research and knowledge exchange at the same time. We engage in comprehensive debates about the future of conservation, the limits and possibilities of interdisciplinary research, and possible alternatives for current Brazilian policies for nature conservation.

Activities under way. This year has been full speed ahead for us. In March, our team hosted the first CONVIVA workshop. The entire international team was present in Foz do Iguaçu National Park, enjoying the backdrop of the breathtaking landscape of the Iguaçu Falls. The meeting in Foz do Iguaçu established a number of challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The team left the meeting with a feeling of commitment to the overall objective of building a convivial perspective for conservation, one that looks at jaguars as part of a whole system in which humans and wildlife can co-exist. During the first six months of 2019, the Brazilian team dedicated efforts to planning activities for the next two years, gathering the data already available from previous projects, and deepening our knowledge of the convivial idea and our contribution to it. We collaboratively developed stakeholder mappings to evaluate possible counterparts and establish a shared perspective on the current dynamics and challenging context of environmental governance in Brazil.

Hopes for the jaguar, the Atlantic Forest and the people who live in it. We aspire to build a sound and viable basis for healthy relationships between people and the fascinating jaguar species in its remaining habitats within this rich and endangered hotspot. On that basis, we hope that we can contribute to longstanding and effective convivial conservation, taking into account both the needs of people and wildlife.